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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All About Choices

When I’m stuck in a loop on one of my ideas (some people call it writer’s block) it’s often because my characters refuse to do what I require. Something in their world is just not quite right. They are missing a motivation, or a skill, or an item that would make things flow again.

At one point in Botanicaust, my characters faced yet another “flight from the bad guys.” I wrote it. And re-wrote it. Ho hum. The two of them had escaped before. They’d do it again. There was no growth or movement. It was just a plot moment, and I want my scenes to always do more.

I watched some TV. Played a game. I even actually cleaned my house.
What if my characters didn’t escape, after all? What if they died? What if I had to introduce something fundamental in this scene that needed to be included in further scenes? So I watched another movie. Ate some chocolate. Sulked.

Would this scene even work in this story? They had to get away from the bad guys, of course. But what would make the reader anxious they might not succeed?

The scene needed more tension. Higher stakes.

So I started asking questions. What would my hero value enough to raise the stakes? What if he had to choose who to save? And who, besides the heroine, would he consider gut-wrenching to lose?

Kids. There were children in the manuscript earlier I’d conveniently written out, and I realized I still needed them. My main character needed more people to protect, people he had to make choices between.

So I reintroduced the children, and they played a major role in the rest of the manuscript. Not only that, but they have become the main characters of my next book in the Botanicaust world.

If I had skipped the flight scene, I would not have enriched the rest of the story with these characters. Or I would have been forced to squeeze them into later scenes for continuity, and it would have felt unnatural. This scene with the children became one of my favorite sections in the whole book.

Do you have a favorite character moment you’ve read or written recently?
© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.


Sarah Raplee said...

I enjoyed reading your view on skipping scenes while writing, Tam. Usually when I get stuck, like you I can figure it out. But once or twice I've moved on to the next scene, and that scene helped me understand what I needed to change in the troublesome scene.

I have a thing for first kiss scenes. They are so fun to write, partly because they reveal a lot about the characters who are kissing.

Tam Linsey said...

First kisses are great, aren't they?

Morgan O'Reilly said...

When I get stuck, I write a love scene. Those can usually be fit in somewhere ;)

But I do agree, when a block hits, something needs looking at. Often, a slight adjustment works, but sometimes, well, that's where rewrites can invade. Hence, the infamous ms that has been restarted 5 times. Maybe it just needs more chocolate to stir up new ideas!

Tam Linsey said...

Ahhh, chocolate. The ultimate fix when things are not right! (or write? lol!)

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Tam, I'm glad Blogger finally got back to normal because this is a great post. I don't think of writer's block as taking the time to sort through or figure out possibilities for particular scenes. I really like the depth and breadth of your process. I tend to walk around the block(s) and go back to reading someone else's book until it comes to me. On a few occasions I'll talk to someone and bounce ideas off them.
Being able and willing to evaluate each scene and make the changes needed to create the best you can is the work habit of a successful writer. Keep on keeping on.

Julie: o) said...

Good post, Tam.
Food for thought...besides chocolate, of course! :o)

Tam Linsey said...

Blogger was being a stinker. Ah, well. A walk will often do me good, too, Judith.
Thanks for stopping by, Julie! Anything that feeds us is good :)